No answers for many questions on D-11 closure options

December 5, 2012
photo - Colorado Springs School District 11 Superintendent Nicholas Gledich talks about options under consideration for closing and consolidating schools. Photo by KRISTINA IODICE/The Gazette
Colorado Springs School District 11 Superintendent Nicholas Gledich talks about options under consideration for closing and consolidating schools. Photo by KRISTINA IODICE/The Gazette 

Questions rather than opinions ruled Wednesday at the first in a series of public meetings about possible closures and changes in Colorado Springs School District 11.

But many were about details that haven’t been determined.

About 60 people attended the meeting at Doherty High School, including parents and D-11 staff. Everyone was given a chart to rank ideas and submit comments.

A few parents and a student spoke in support of keeping Wasson High School open, spurring applause from the audience.

“Consider the kids,” said Delores Higgins, a teacher who was at East Middle School when it closed and who now teaches at Wasson. “There’s a lot of heart in that school.”

A dozen options were presented to the school board in November by a committee tasked with looking at the use of school buildings in the Pikes Peak region’s largest district. Wasson High School, Mann Middle School and Bates, Lincoln, Edison and Midland elementary schools could be shuttered.

D-11 officials summarized each option, and briefly explained some of the changes in the district, especially since the last round of closures in 2009.

“We’ve seen a dramatic change in enrollment,” said Glenn Gustafson, finance director.

Other school districts also are seeing the shift as young families tend to move to newer neighborhoods, he said.

In 10 years, D-11 has lost about 4,400 students, about a 14 percent drop in enrollment, Gustafson said. That’s equal to one high school, two middle schools and four or five elementary schools.

“Here we go again,” said parent Maureen Miller. “It looks to me like it’s already been decided.”

Charlie Bobbitt, a former school board member, asked if the changes considered the balance and impact of closing schools with a high number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

“You’re moving the kids miles and miles away,” he said. “Parents won’t be able to be involved in the schools. You’re losing the neighborhoods.”

Others said increasing school sizes may actually decrease opportunities for students, especially in athletics.

The focus of the proposals on the core of the district also stirred concern.

“It looks like you don’t want to upset the north end of the district,” Miller said. “It’s OK to rock the world of the central part?”

Another parent asked about a total amount of savings that the district was seeking.

Superintendent Nicholas Gledich said there is no magic number. The intent of the project was to determine the best use for D-11 schools.

Officials emphasize that the new report lists “think-abouts” on closures and realignments, and no decisions have been made. Gledich has said he expects to make recommendations to the board in January.

“It’s a complex issue, there’s lots here for us to think about, he said Wednesday.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice

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